Archive for the ‘DS’ Category

Metroid Prime Pinball

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

I kind of have a thing for pinball games, especially ones that I can find on the cheap. And, wouldn’t you know it, I found a game that was simultaneously both of those things and it also had the extra ‘holy crap, I gotta get it’ factor in the form of a little Rumble Pak, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Metroid Prime Pinball is kind-of sort-of based on Metroid Prime, which we’ll talk about in-depth another day. But all we really need to know is that stuff in this game looks like stuff in that game, more or less.

Now, if you’re familiar with the Metroid series at all, you know that one of Samus’s most famous abilities is to roll up into a compact ball form. She’s somehow mostly stuck in this form for the majority of this game because you need something to bat around the playfield, and her unballed-up form just doesn’t roll as well.

So you thwack Samus around with your flippers in a variety of areas that, I assume, come from the GameCube game which, at the time I was playing this game, I had yet to play. So I just kind of accepted that. Like regular pinball games if you make Samus hit things then you get points, pretty simple, right? But unlike regular pinball you have a ton of stuff on the field to worry about.

Stuff like monsters that walk around the playfield and grab Samus or just get in the way of your perfectly lined up shot. Or big boss monsters that are just generally annoying. Good thing that you’re not completely defenseless, then!

If you crash hard enough into some monsters you can damage and/or kill them off, which gives you precious points and has the fantastic side-effect of getting them out of your way. You also occasionally temporarily get the ability to uncurl Samus from her ball-form into Space Bounty Hunter form and you can shoot bullets and missiles at your foes, which dispatches them far easier.

Now, the cool thing about this game is that it came with a Rumble Pak, kind of like the one that came with Starfox 64, which you cram into the bottom of your DS. It reacts any time you make Samus crash into something, or you fire your aforementioned heavy artillery, or you lose a ball, or any time you think something should make some kind of noise/reaction. Which, yeah, it’s kind of a novelty, but it’s exactly the kind of novelty that I go for. It kind of feels like you are actually carrying a tiny mechanical pinball machine in your pants.

Which, if you don’t think that’s awesome, I don’t think I can help you.

Big Mutha Truckers

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

It’s kind of hard to tell what Big Mutha Truckers is from looking at the box. All I could really divine was that it had something to do with semis and horribly overdone parodies of truck drivers.

The story of this game is pretty much nonexistent. It has something to do with Mama, the ridiculously obese matriarch of some shipping family, retiring and needing someone to take over the business. But she doesn’t know who to give it to. So, she organizes a competition. Whoever can raise the most money in some amount of time will become the winner! And presumably will become the new owner of the shipping cartel that exists in that universe.

You do this by traveling to various stops on your map and buying and selling your cargo. Your goal is to buy low and sell high, which will give you a healthy profit. Which you’ll need to not only win the game, but also to buy fuel and to repair your truck.

You need to repair your truck not only because you’re a horrible driver and have a tendency to crash into other cars along the road, but other vehicles will intentionally do you harm. It also doesn’t help that your semi controls like the wheels are made out of butter and the road is very warm, which pretty much ensures that you’re going to hit just about everything placed between you and your destination.

I guess if you play this game a lot, and take lots of notes to figure out what stops sell what cargo for what prices, and then if you learn how to drive a semi that controls like the road is covered with a layer of spent banana peels and canola oil, and you then somehow managed to not blow all your seed money on repairs and fuel, then you might actually start to get not awful at this game.

But that’s a whole lot of ‘if’s, and a whole lot more time that I was willing to spend on it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Growing up, I absolutely adored the Chronicles of Narnia books even though most of my friends had never heard of them (they were all ‘Tolkien’ this and ‘Gandalf’ that). I therefore assumed that the series was just kind of an almost unknown treasure that I had found. I still have the box-set I got as a birthday present so many years ago, though it’s significantly more worn now.

Fast forward a bunch of years and books like the Lord of the Rings series are being made into movies and making me think back to those other fantasy novels I read as a young ‘un. So I start to look into my old standbys again and what do I find? That a movie is going to be based on the Narnia universe. And movies ultimately mean video game tie-ins.

Now, I’m fully aware that movie-based tie-in video games to movies are generally awful, so I was expecting the game based on the movie based on the book The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to be bad. I mean, it’s already two degrees separated from the source material, so any similarities to the actual novel would probably be the result of some kind of divine intervention, or a complete accident. But I was also aware that I would probably never again see a Narnia game again in my lifetime, so if I wanted to seize the opportunity to take two of my childhood passions and smoosh them together to see what I got, now would be the time.

And what did I find?

Well, that’s a great question, actually. The game is definitely based on the movie which is based on the book that I read. The four children are in the game and have to defeat the White Witch somehow. You do this by guiding the Pevensies around twisty little paths, all alike, in your search to kill stuff. Each one has strengths, and you have to switch between them to utilize them to their fullest. But the White Witch isn’t going to stand idly by and wait for you to saunter up to her palace and topple her from her cushy job. She sends wave upon wave of enemies to accost you at every turn, making you fight your way pretty much anywhere you decide you want to go.

Narnia: LWW

And that’s actually kind of a problem for me. Enemies constantly come at you, forcing you to either fight them or run away. If you fight enough of them you’ll eventually get stronger, but if you run away you’ll retain more of your precious health points. For some reason the kids start the game out exceptionally weak, and it’s just a lot of slogging through the enemies to proceed, assuming you don’t manage to get one or more of them killed off somehow. Then it’s spending time trying to figure out how to resurrect them while you’re trying to fend off a pack of wolves with what amounts to a slightly-sharpened stick with an eraser stuck on the point.

The other problem I had was that the featureless landscape of the ‘constantly winter and never Christmas’ landmass that you have to explore. I got a few quests from the indigenous creatures, but never could accurately divine where in the vast expanses of sameness I was supposed to try and go. Which led to three things:

  1. Me getting hopelessly lost
  2. Me running around in circles killing wolves with a Bonk Stick
  3. Me turning this game off, sticking it back into its protective case, and then dreading the day that the Prince Caspian game comes out.

Pokémon Diamond

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

I kind of implied it in yesterday’s entry but you just won’t get a lot of mileage out of My Pokémon Ranch if you don’t have a copy of one of the DS games to connect with it. But, shocker of shockers, I certainly do have one of the DS games to link up with it.

You might be asking yourself why on Earth would I want to buy another Pokémon game. And to that I can only say that you apparently don’t know me very well. I just kind of like the series, that’s all. The games are as deep as you want them to be, and I have the opportunity to catch innocent wild creatures and force them to do my bidding, satiating my God complex… Okay, not really. I just like goofing around with it, trying out the different moves, checking out the variety of monsters, and generally trying to create my super-awesome nigh-unbeatable team… which actually usually turns out to be quite beatable.

There is a story in this game, but it really is just kind of a framework for you to work in that slowly introduces you to the world, its inhabitants, and the bizarre organized pokémon fighting culture that has somehow pervaded its world.

Or you could catch them and dress them up to participate in contests instead of fighting them. Or you could dispense with fighting completely and navigate the underground network and attempt to find hidden treasures.

But probably the most interesting part of the game is that it takes advantage of the DS’s wireless capabilities to connect to the Nebulous Internet. You can use this newfangled tech-a-nology to trade whatever you’ve collected with other folks around the world. The interface could use a little work. You can’t, for instance, search for something unless you’ve seen it first. This makes it kind of tough to ‘catch ‘em all’ since lots of the ones you’ll need to actually do that will never cross your paths without some… creative shenanigans.

You might remember that the DS, on the bottom, has a slot that will accommodate one Game Boy Advance cartridge. Once you reach a certain point in your DS adventure, you can utilize the kinda super-secret transfer method to move your monsters that you worked so hard to get in the Game Boy titles over to your DS game. Which certainly will help speed things along, but will definitely leave your prior-generation title bereft of all your hard-gotten uber-characters, which would make it kind of tough to go back and play it… if you were so inclined. Which, history has shown, will happen from time to time.

Of course, if you have a family member who gives you a copy of one of the GBA games that she found in the parking lot of some school, and the game was run over a few times, but still worked fine. Then you would probably not have any qualms about taking all of that kid’s monsters.

At least, I didn’t.

Puyo Pop Fever

Monday, May 26th, 2008

When I was first playing Kirby’s Avalanche I had no idea that it was based on a game called Puyo Pop. Or, more accurately, that it was the same game as Puyo Puyo but with the characters replaced with characters from the Kirby universe.

A few years later, when I got my hands on a DS, I saw a video review on XPlay that told me that a new Puyo Puyo game had come out that I had somehow missed completely. That is the only time I can remember that as soon as the review ended that I went immediately to the store to get the game.

This game is nearly identical to the old Avalanche game: colored blobs fall from the sky and you have arrange them such that four of the same color touch each other. Once they do they disappear, and with careful planning you can shower your opponents with trash to try and impede their progress. But this game also has been balanced a fair bit.

See, in the old game, it was the one who could make the biggest chain the fastest that would win. They’d bury their opponent with garbage, and there was precious little to do about it. In this game, though, you can do what’s called ‘offsetting’. What that means is that if your opponent sends you some garbage and you can make a chain before the garbage drops on your screen, then you reduce the amount of garbage that will fall on your screen, and if you offset enough to offset all of the garbage and then some, the difference is dumped on your opponent’s screen. It’s a significant change, and one that makes the game just work better.

There’s also the introduction of ‘fever’ mode. If you offset garbage enough times you get to go into a special mode where your puzzle is temporarily replaced by a series of pre-built chains awaiting for you to trigger it, giving you a chance to send a ridiculous amount of trash to your opponent. But just getting there is contingent on your opponent sending you trash in the first place, so you have to work a bit harder to bury your opponent.

One of the other things I really liked about this game is that you can play up to eight players with one copy of the game, which I liked to do a whole lot… even though I don’t know seven other people with DS units that I could get into the same room at the same time and who I could convince to play it with me.

But I have the option available to me, should that particular set of circumstances ever present itself.


Friday, May 9th, 2008

A while back I mentioned that I really liked Tetris Attack, the game about matching up puzzle pieces to make them disappear from a steadily rising stack. A few years later and I would find out that a similar-but-not-quite-the-same game was making the rounds called Meteos.

Meteos, like Tetris Attack, has a grid of multi-colored blocks that you have to manipulate in such a way that three or more of the same color are lined up together. In Tetris Attack the pieces disappear, but in Meteos the matched pieces start to fly off the top of the screen, taking any on top of them with them. But the key gameplay difference is that in Tetris Attack you can only move your pieces left and right, but in Meteos you can only move them up and down.

There’s a story mode that tries to help explain the story behind the game, something about multicolored meteors plummeting onto the planet and you having to match them up to send them back into the ether, but it’s really mostly unnecessary. It just kind of gives you an excuse for the space-themed backdrops and characters.

I really should have liked this game a whole lot, given that I like Tetris Attack and its derivatives so much. But I guess that my mind is set against trying to play the game in a way where I have to think along the y-axis instead of the x-axis. And as a result, the only time I played this game, I did really poorly at it. Couple that with the fact that one of the people I was playing the game with was able to get a degree of success by scribbling on the screen, kind of made me suspect its worth as a puzzler.

But maybe I’m being too hard on it. Maybe it is a great, awesome, compelling, and addictive game. But I have no desire to play it any more to find out.

Animal Crossing Wild World

Friday, April 11th, 2008

I got the original Animal Crossing game just because I could use it to play old NES games. It would turn out that the game was pretty enjoyable on its own merits, so that sweetened the deal a bit. And though I didn’t play the game every single day for the whole year, I did put a lot of hours into it.

A couple of years later, though, and I would have a DS for my very own. The crazy handheld with wifi capabilities. One of the first games I heard about for the system was a new game in the Animal Crossing universe. One that promised to let you visit your friends’ towns over the Internet. And since visiting other peoples’ towns in the GameCube version of the game was simultaneously the best and most tedious feature of the old game, this was pretty exciting for me.

So I bought the game a couple of days after release day and settled in. It still features you as the token human moving into a town populated by humanoid animals. You still have to take out a loan to buy a house from the resident loan shark Tom Nook (the Crook), and you still run around the town doing menial tasks for your neighbors.

I really wanted to like this game more than I did. They did add a few things: your guy could change hats, the game world isn’t broken up into discrete ‘acres’, you can acquire emotes, and the promised wifi abilities are all in there. But, really, the game is largely the same as the GameCube offering with a little bit of polish in the right places. But since I had already played that one to death, I got bored with this one pretty fast.

I did hook up with the folks I knew and we had little meetings of all our Animal Crossing towns every time we’d have a get together. But they had the habit of playing a little, then saving, then moving the clock ahead, then playing again, then moving the clock ahead, and so on. So the little synchronized events that were supposed to take place between our towns didn’t exactly work very well. Not to mention that in my town it would be Winter and I’d go visit a town and it’d be Summer or some such. Not a big deal, I guess, but it was a little annoying.

The other thing that I thought was pretty lame was that all of the old classic NES games that were in the original game were nowhere to be found. You could still collect Nintendo themed furniture and that kind of thing, but you couldn’t just pop over to play Excitebike or something for a few minutes. And since that was the biggest draw for me, I didn’t really have much of a reason to keep visiting my town. Yeah, unlocking new couches and closets is great and everything, but it’s just not the same. Especially since I already did most of this stuff a few years ago.

Feel the Magic XY/XX

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

If you’re a guy walking down the street and you see the woman of your dreams, what do you do? Try to woo her of course! But you can’t do it on your own, apparently, so you’re assisted by (what appears to be) a performance group called the Rub Rabbits. You then go through a series of exercises all designed to get you and your woman to be friends… or more than friends. I couldn’t really tell.

The game is kind of all over the place, and really random. Making a guy barf up goldfish? Saving your lady friend from a rampaging herd of cattle? Blowing out candles? Building fires on a desert island? Launching people from giant slingshot mounted to your car to hit and slow down another car? Yeah, all of those things are in there, plus more. Much more.

I have to admit, this game is oddly compelling. Its randomness just kind of works if you suspend enough disbelief, and it’s almost not creepy when you gently wash the dirt off your friend after a tumble.

And the music. Well, the music is ridiculously upbeat and catchy. It stayed in my head for a good day or so after I played this game. But it works in the game really well.

This was definitely one of the better deals I pulled out of the clearance bin.

Tetris DS

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

By now we all know about Tetris: arrange blocks to form lines, simple but addictive gameplay, yadda yadda. The game’s longevity and the sheer amount of Tetris clones out there are a testament to its design. So to keep milking that cow you’re going to want it available on as many platforms as possible. But you have to make it new, exciting, and, if possible, shiny!

Tetris DS starts out normal enough, it’s got the standard brick-stacking mode, but this time with old Nintendo characters cavorting on the top screen. Keen!

But the meat of the single player game comes in the other modes. Mission mode, for example, tasks you with clearing lines a certain way in the time allotted to slay some Zelda enemies. Though I swear some of the challenges on the later levels are impossible. Then there’s Catch mode where you have a puzzle floating through space and you have to crash it into other pieces, some with explosives on them, and blow up the bricks… This mode is very boring, I played it about twice. Push mode has you and an opponent on opposite sides of the same puzzle area, and each time you clear two or more lines it shoves the puzzle slightly closer to your opponent. Make it cross their ‘danger’ zone and you win! This mode is actually pretty fun, especially if you have an actual person to play against. Puzzle mode is pretty tame. You have a pre-set puzzle and a few blocks to place to try and clear the whole screen, but you can undo as many times as you want, so you’ll go through the permutations pretty fast. Touch mode has a giant tower of blocks and you have to use the stylus to move them around and clear lines. This one takes a bit more thinking than the other modes, but is still distracting for a while.

But, oh man, the game has Wi-Fi capabilities. What this means is that now, when you need to get your Tetris fix you can hop online and search for a random opponent. And there is always someone way better than you just waiting to give you a savage beat down. I can’t decide if I was more jazzed about the ability to play against four friends at once or that I could play against someone if I’m anywhere in the world that has an Internet hot-spot.

This game is, so far, my favorite implementation of the series. I’ve got my $30 out of it several times over.

Mario Kart DS

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

The Mario Kart game on the GameCube was just about perfect. The only thing really missing from it was online play (though there are unofficial ways around that). So when the DS version came out, the way Nintendo was hyping its wireless online matchmaking system, online play was almost a given. I could finally play against, and lose to, folks from all over the world who were much much better than I was. It was like 1996 all over again.

Yeah, it’s Mario Kart. Run around tracks, shoot things at your opponents, yadda yadda. What’s kind of cool about this version, though, is that in addition to being able to play online you can also unlock courses from previous games in the Mario Kart series. It’s almost as though Nintendo is saying, “No! Being able to play a goofy kart racer online is not enough! We must also cash in on the nostalgia aspect to solidify the hardcore players!”

And that kind of crap totally works on me.

I could gush about this game and the series in general some more, but I think I’ve done that quite enough already.